On the night of February 23, 1991, a battalion of the 4th Rajputana Rifles of the 68th Brigade conducted a cordon and search operation in the villages of Kunan and Poshpora in frontier Kupwara district.
Residents said that men and women were segregated in the darkness of the wintry night.
While the men were taken to field for an overnight interrogation, the women, regardless of their age, were allegedly gang raped. An allegation strongly opposed by the Indian Army.
With the villagers pursuing the case in various courts of law since and authorities evading responsibility, the fight for justice for those in Kunan and Poshara goes on.
This week a book titled ‘Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora’ was launched at the Jaipur Literature Festival, reviving the agonies of the women from the neglected villages, 125 km northwest of Srinagar city.
The book has been jointly written by five women – aged between 22 to 26 – Samreen Mushtaq, Ifrah Butt, Essar Batool, Natasha Manzoor and Munaza Rashid and is published by Zubaan Publications.
The authors are lawyers and social workers who work voluntarily with a Srinagar-based human rights group, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), on the Kunan Poshpora survivors.
The authors chronicled the lives of the survivors as well as what happened on that dreadful night.
In the days to come, the authors are planning to release the book in Srinagar and bring Kunan Poshpora back in discourse after a gap of almost 25 years.
The State Human Rights Commission in 2012 recommended a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to 34 women petitioners and action against officials who closed the case in 1991.
In 2013 a group of 50 women, including the five authors, filed the petition in the high court seeking the reopening of the Kunan Poshpora case.
The high court admitted the petition and took it as a PIL.
“We filed the petition not because we expect justice from the system, but because we wanted to make Indian army answerable and to make them understand they cannot go scot free to repeat the same crime. Our struggle is not about the outcomes but developing culture of resistance where people would question impunity and where we will not remain silent in the face of injustice,” writes Samreen Mushtaq, a co-author of the book.
The book talks about reopening the case and documents the legal struggle faced by the survivors and the authors.
Five of the women victims died as the legal battle raged on.
The authors have written different chapters while being a part of the ongoing legal battle.
The chapters include ones titled – That Night in Kunan Poshpora, Life in Kunan Poshpora, Inquires and People who Remember.
While releasing the book at the Jaipur Literary festival, Essar Batool, said:“We thought it is necessary for the younger generation to take up this case. We didn’t open it. We merely added to the effort.”